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As the Wind Blows

Week 34: Crossing the Chanel and Brussels

BELGIUM | Friday, 11 November 2011 | Views [516]

The Atomium built for the world fair. I think the Eiffel Tower may have some competition!

The Atomium built for the world fair. I think the Eiffel Tower may have some competition!

The reason I didn’t just come to Europe for an extra long holiday combing tours and independent travel was that I wanted to spend time in different cities so that I could get a feel for the place. With limited time and limited funds I decided to go against that principle and book myself on coach tour because let’s face it, it’s hard to pick with European city will be the last one to visit. That and I also have travel fatigue, in that I’m not excited to visit new places anymore which I think is quite sad.

So my coach trip was a tour around central Europe. It included catching the ferry from Dover to Calais and after reading novels which involves crossing the English Channel or just watching the Three Musketeers (Chris O’Donnell and Kiefer Sutherland version) where they go to Calais, I’ve wanted to make the crossing :P

It’s not as long a journey as it would have been in times gone by and only takes an hour and half. I’m pretty sure on a clear day you would probably be able to see France from Dover. The port of Calais isn’t as picturesque as I’d imagined it because it’s like a typical sea port which takes in the shipping requirements of all different industries. Unfortunately didn’t get to see the town itself because it was fenced off from the port, but it did look quite quaint from the snippets I glimpsed through the fence.

The port of Dover with its white cliffs and castle are quite impressive. I’ll use the most frustrating word in the English dictionary – ‘if’ – and say that if I had had more time I would have liked to spend a day in that area because it looked quite lovely.

I feel like I’m cheating by saying I even went to Belgium and Brussels because I was there for less than 24 hours, but I can’t not mention it, because not enough people seem to mention that they’ve ever been to Belgium and that’s where dark chocolate comes from! Milk chocolate comes from Switzerland. But I’ll talk about Switzerland later.

Belgium reminded me a lot of the country side around Amsterdam with its farms and its canals. I just wanted to hop on a bike and cycle around.  Brussels reminded me a bit of Canberra, because it’s essentially a public service town being the headquarters of the EU, and a bit of Munich and every other European city I’ve visited so far (see what I mean about travel fatigue).

There was of course time to sample the local cuisine and learn that dark chocolate in Belgium is really quite deadly and see attractions such as the Atomium which light up like Christmas trees at night. Although science is not my forte, I thought the atoms looked quite beautiful lit up at night and  one day I’d like to climb to the top most atom.

So after a long and tiring day of crossing the English Channel and the Belgian countryside and essentially sitting on our backsides all day, I went to bed in a Eurostyle room (ie very small) and not all that enthusiastic about doing it all again the next day in a different country. 

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